Next time you forget to tip the bellhop for schlepping your luggage to your hotel room, be warned: You might wind up being a villain in Chris Russell’s hilarious webseries, Doorman.
Doorman is an offshoot of Russell’s blog, which he launched in 2012 as a way to blow off steam about the shenanigans he has to face in his daily work as a doorman. Yes, Russell is a doorman at a Manhattan hotel, and his arguments with rude guests, obnoxious cabdrivers, and street buskers are the real thing. Well, maybe with a bit of poetic license tossed in for art’s sake.
“There’s a goldmine of material,” Russell told the Daily Dot. “I thought it would be a good show before I wrote the blog. After a few months of starting my blog, I knew it was gold. Every day something happens, even if it’s a tiny, 10-second interaction.”
Russell’s path to creating this funny, sometimes sad, sharply written five-episode series hits some familiar notes, but it separates itself from the pack with superb production qualities (“I have a great team; they work for hugs,” Russell joked) and a sustainable premise. Using his blog as a springboard, the Staten Island native and former special-ed teacher creates a tight narrative that yields a three-act dramedy in 10 minutes or less.
In describing the leap from written chronicle to the multiscreen platform, Russell used an interesting metaphor: “I was like a witness giving a description to police sketch artists,” he said. “I had a general idea of what I wanted but really didn’t know what I was doing.”
For the pilot, which has a great and satisfying plot twist at the end, Russell went the crowdfunding route, but he came up short of his goal, kicking in the remaining money out of his own pocket. Those dollars represent a lot of tips for hailing cabs and carrying bags of often ungrateful hotel guests. In most cases, the plots of his webseries are based on incidents that actually took place, harvesting those that received the best reaction on his blog.
Shown in the pilot is the skirmish between doorman and crazy cabbie, which Russell said is based on one of his most popular posts. “I called out a cabbie who didn’t want to take a woman with a sick child to the hospital,” the doorman/actor/filmmaker recalled. “He was just sitting in loading zone. He told me ‘No, I want to eat my sandwich.’” Colorful words were exchanged and…Well, here’s the entry from Russell’s blog:
He wanted me to hit him, so he could call the cops and claim that I assaulted him for no reason. A couple of years ago, the doorman from the hotel across the street was provoked by a driver, knocked him out, then went to jail and lost his job. As much as I want to get out of this job, I don’t want to get locked up. I already had his medallion number, and was going to exploit it, so I opted to take the non-violent route – by waving like Forrest Gump when he see’s Lieutenant Dan on the dock.
Like most creators in the webseries genre, Russell hopes the path for Doorman takes him to a commercial route, one with sponsors or a green light from a traditional TV network or one of the streaming networks. The pilot was entered in the 2013 NYC Webfest and received strong feedback, which has added to his growing list of fans.
A charming and verbose true New York character, Russell carries an undertone of determination in his conversation. He may be lighthearted about the strange things he sees in his day-to-day work at the fictional T-Bone Hotel (he won’t give up the real name of his employer), but his current job is akin to those actors who start their journey as waiters or limo drivers. Until the big break comes for the doorman and his show, Russell will continue to open doors and smile. Keeping a written and video diary of his current career is what keeps him sane.
“It’s me venting,” Russell said with a laugh. “It keeps me from putting my hands around someone’s throat during the day.”
Screengrab via Doorman Show/YouTube